After three rounds of bidding, 1,030 bidders ponied up $3.03 billion for five blocks of beachfront spectrum being reclaimed from analog-TV broadcasters in the switch to digital.
The bidding is anonymous, but a new minimum bid of $1.493 billion was placed on the package of licenses covering 50 states (the so-called C block) that companies like Google are eyeing for a possible new network that could deliver wireless Internet.
The eventual winner in what is likely a weeks-long auction will have to bid at least $4.6 billion or the spectrum will be reauctioned without its current open-access conditions.
That's because the auction has to raise at least $10 billion for the federal treasury and programs including paying for the digital-TV-to-analog converter-box coupons.
There have been three bids so far on a package of C-block licenses sufficient for a nationwide network -- the first for $1.037 billion and the second for $1.244 billion, which was where it stood Friday morning. The minimum bid for that block in the third round will be $1.493 billion.
The D block -- a nationwide footprint for a public-private network shared with first-responders -- had drawn one bid of $472 million. The minimum bid for round three was $531 million.
There was still only one bidder for another nationwide swatch of spectrum that could also be used for a national advanced wireless network but one that would have to be shared with first-responders when they needed it. That bidder -- all bidding is anonymous -- did not raise its bid from round two's $472 million. But the Federal Communications Commission lowered the minimum bid on that block for round four -- scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. -- from $531 million to $525 million.